…And all is right with the world

I was determined that come hell or high water, the kiddies would have an uneventful back to school experience this year, so this year they came home slightly earlier.  Since I made an impromptu trip home in June for Foxy’s funeral, I stayed here and let them fly back.  I didn’t expect them to be the same size as when they left, but holy damn.  Finge needs a job and Ladybug needs to be chaperoned until she’s 23.  We’ve been having a great time, but they have worn my righteous behind out.

My kid actually has a half day of school today for orientation, so that he can learn where everything is. He even catches the bus home.  Is this not getting the shaft in the worst order?  You have a day of school BEFORE you go to school?  Some old bullshit.

At one point, I mulled over the kids spending the school year with my sister, and I’m so glad I didn’t go with that.  I missed those guys.  We had the totally corny moment when they were coming up the walk way, and I peeked my head over to look for them.  I heard “MOMMYYYYYYYYY!” and that was awesome to me.  I live in the suburbs, and most of the parents in my kids’ school are married, often with stay at home moms.  Tons of events are held during the day, and of course, I can’t always attend.  We had a tumultuous year last year, and I thought the stability, and more traditional style of my sister’s household may have been a good idea, but my kids weren’t having that.  When I saw them running down the walk way, I knew I’d made the right choice.

I’m not traditional.  They will probably never come home and smell cookies, I hate play dates, and I would slit my throat before I threw a sleepover.  But they still like me, and I think I’m okay with that.

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Uncivil

“There’s like a civil war goin on with black people and there two sides – there’s black people, and there’s niggas.”
– Chris Rock “Bring the Pain

“Everybody wanna be a nigga, don’t nobody wanna be a nigga.”
– Paul Mooney “Chappelle’s Show”

“All the while, I thought I liked chicken because it was delicious.  It turns out, I am genetically predisposed to liking chicken.”
– Dave Chappelle “Killin Them Softly”

“Dear black people who go out of their way to not like watermelon, chicken and Kool aid:  Shut up.”
– Me Twitter

I love being black.  I like my buckshots, and having a donk (plush posterior for those not in the know) and bodacious soup coolers.  If by some flip of the coin, I were born a black woman with silken locs, a flat booty and thin lips, I would still love my blackness.  For me, being black is simply another part of who I am, whether I fit into the perceived norms or not.  One of the things that I love about being black in this day and age, is the realization that there is no NORM of blackness.  My father preferred Yes and Little Feat over 70s R&B.  My mother passed away, despite growing up in the deep south, without ever having sampled chitlins.*  My sisters and I were raised to embrace diversity, and had friends of all races.  Despite having to grasp for black and/or female role models in the media, I grew up being a black child that was happy to be black.  Being black was natural, normal and not something requiring explanation.

So Friday, while reading The Champ’s latest post at Very Smart Brothas, I found a very funny, tongue in cheek piece about certain bits of black Americana that The Champ just didn’t get.  It’s hard for me to not enjoy a blog post, because at the end of the day, it’s one person’s opinion on things in life that are totally matters of opinion.  I can’t chide anyone for not liking “Love Jones.”  You speak a language that I don’t understand I’m sure, but if you don’t get it, that’s you. I still haven’t seen Menace II Society in it’s entirety. Everybody’s got something.

What started out as a funny, tongue in cheek commentary on unappreciated rites of passage, became a bunch of folks trying to out-pegro** one another.  Of course some of the comments were funny, some of them were interesting, and then some of them were laundry lists of how un-black they were that was just plain sad.  Some of these comments made me wonder, “Who was your mama?”  One commenter listed, as proof of her un-blackness, that she was neither overweight nor angry.

Word?  Who yo people is?

I officially lost it when someone stated that they not only hated Kool Aid, but they preferred Tang. TANG?  First of all, the name of it is “Tang!”  Second, it tastes like giraffe piss after an Orange Kool Aid Bender.  Third, the first ingredient is sugar, so it’s not for health reasons. Finally, do you know people use that crap to clean out their dishwashers?  So I got real angry, and I went on a Twitter rant. Because:

1)  I am hard pressed to believe that you can be a living soul and not like chicken, watermelon, AND Kool Aid.  You might not roll with all three, but you at LEAST fist pump for one of them, even if you don’t actively consume them.  (I haven’t purchased Kool-Aid in at least six months, but if it’s in your fridge and I’m there, your stash is getting effed in the A.)

2) Who gives a damn?

Part of this, of course, stems from the compulsive desire to combat stereotypes.  We have to prove to the man that he ain’t massa no mo.  It’s not enough to just live our lives and say to hell with ignorant preconceived notions.  No, we have to validate and qualify.  Several people went on a tirade over their disdain for chitlins.  I find chitlins the biggest non-issue in the country.  I have never been at a family gathering (and I’ve been at plenty) where there was a pot of chitlins.  No small Tupperware bowls, no wayward cousin in the corner eating his chitlins in shame.  Rebuking chitlins as a benchmark for blackness is about as relevant as declaring your refusal to pick cotton for free.  It’s a non-issue.   After listening to my rant, My brother in blog said it best:

“[They] think avoiding that…will give them some extra favor.  Barack is Ivy League, articulate, smart, fit, a great husband and father, worships God.  He’s still a terrorist socialist, out to steal their grandparents and exterminate them.  If a white person is judging you fairly it don’t matter if you drink kool aid or not; for racist bastards it don’t matter either way.”

I will go on record and say that if you are a meat eating human, (and by meat, I mean turkey, beef, lamb, frog legs etc.), you’re a knucklehead.  Because you’re not doing it out of preference.  You’re doing it out of some borderline self hating desire to be the premiere anti-black Black.  Your stance is stupid as a person who says black people don’t swim and we all have bad credit.  You’re still feeding into the stereotype.  It’s ugly, and it looks bad; not to white people.  It looks bad to me – your sister – who sees this as the behavior of the lost.

I’m frustrated with the nonstop potshots we take at others to prove we’re “not those kind of black people.”  So what if we are.  This civil war has become quite uncivilized, because in the end, who gets to decide who has the “nigga” mantle?  Who gets to decide who the “niggas” are?  The “Talented Tenth?”  Bill Cosby?  What happens when certain individuals who consider themselves black intellectuals, come up lacking?  Is there are revolt when they are left out?  It sounds ridiculous, because it is ridiculous.  There are certain social issues that plague the black community that must be addressed:  Lack of opportunity; substandard education; personal safety.  I have yet to hear of a half eaten bowl of chitlins being found at a crime scene; bullets though?  Tons of those.  Let’s get on that.  Let’s talk about how easy it is to get a gun in the hood.  Or even how easy it is for a neighborhood to go from thriving hub for black folks, to abject ghetto that we are run out of for fear of our lives, to gentrified paradise that we can’t afford.  Let’s go in on THAT SHIT.

Let’s all get along and put these verbal weapons of civil war away.  Let’s all band together, pegro and hood rat, locs and lace fronts, country bumpkins and concrete jungleites, and just accept each other as black folk.  The statement “We’ve got to do better” isn’t just for ghetto people.  No one is exempt from being part of the problem, once their attitudes have become sour and excessively judgmental.

My black is beautiful.  So is yours.

*I can’t bring myself to spell “chitterlings.”  It just looks dumb to me, and I feel spelling the word properly is giving it an undeserved dignity.

** “Pegro” = pretentious negro

Open Letter

Dear Dr. Laura:

Forgive me if I seem discombobulated.  See, I heard your name mentioned in current, and seemingly relevant, conversation, so I thought I’d slipped into a time warp. At lunch this past Saturday, Cynthia said it best, when she asked, “Is this the 90s? Why the hell am I hearing and saying Dr. Laura’s name?”  This is officially getting old.  Is there a great meeting of forgotten white celebrities that hash out how they’ll scam themselves back into relevance?  Is there a great wheel that you spin with options such as “Pose Nude,” “Go to Rehab,” “Adopt a Minority PR Wet Dream Infant?”  So I would imagine that you, like Michael Richards and Mel Gibson, hit the “Racist Asshole” bonanza.  You were rude, you were dismissive, and yes, you were racist.  Let’s not lose that in translation.

I’ll be frank here: when a person above the age of 40 makes ignorant, “I miss the days of yore” type statments, I don’t expect it, but I am not surprised.  Part of this is because you come from a different time; a time where life thrived on exclusion.  We had no idea about other races and cultures, because life was conducive to people living in little enclaves that only included people of their own class and culture.  I don’t see that type of thing as telling.

What was telling, however, was your reaction and curt non-apology.  Your deliberate tone punctuated your statement with, “Happy now niggers?”  Yeah.  We all heard it.

So now you have decided to not renew your contract at the end of the year, because you want to, “regain my First Amendment rights.” To say nigger?  Color me confused again.  According to your non-apology, you were wrong, but you told Larry King that you were a victim of hate groups and you did not want to live in fear.  Okay…I’ll speak to you in terms you understand:

N-word 101 for Dr. Laura (Pardon me.  Every time I say your name in the 21st century, I have to check my Beta Max for the time. )

Though I doubt very seriously any interest group has threatened you, I can safely say that uttering the n-word any time after, let’s say 1972 may not guarantee you getting a mudhole stomped in your bony posterior, but it makes it a distinct possibility.  Black people don’t like white people saying that word.  Ever.  It’s not for you to decide that you would like to use it.  WHY do you want to use it?  (This goes for every white person that wonders why they can’t use it.  Do you think it tastes like raspberry gelato on your tongue?  It doesn’t.)  I say that you aren’t fearful enough.  If you knew like I know, you would not have dropped the n-bomb in the first place.

Additionally Doc, what you did was either wrong, or it wasn’t.  So you can’t say out of one side of your mouth that it was wrong, then out of the other, cry censorship and blame hate groups.  You, my dear, are the one who used hate speech.  You are the one who told the caller, who revered and respected you enough to go to you for advice, that bristling under her husband’s friends’ hate speech was her being hypersensitive.  But here’s where you are right:  we do NOT want to debate you.  As the great Negro philosopher Sean Carter once said, “A wise man told me don’t argue with fools/’Cause people from a distance can’t tell who’s who.”  We want your variety of ignorance eliminated — eradicated either.  There is no place for you.

So to you and your non-apology, I extend to you your much desired freedom.  The freedom to suck it, and kiss my EN-TIRE ass.  NOBODY’S FOOLING WITH YOU ANYWAY!

Still Knows What it Means…Five Years Later

The rules probably dictate that I wait until the actual anniversary to write a commemorative post. However, two things are at work here: 1) I prefer to spend that day celebrating my blessings rather than mourning my losses; and 2) I’m not much for following rules, especially those set forth by that beyotch Katrina.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The night before I evacuated was one of the best nights of my life.  My baby was going to start school that Tuesday, I had settled on going back to school in January, and had abandoned my plans to move to the East Coast.  Life in my hometown was looking up, so I figured I could stick it out.  My girls and I piled into Big Pimpin (R.I.P.), had a good time at True Brew’s Poetry night, hooted, hollered, sang and danced.  On the way out we heard a random conversation:

“Yeah man, they’re saying this one might really hit us.”
“They’re always saying that shit. You leavin?”
“I dunno.”

We got breakfast.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Finge and The Bug were already at my homegirl’s crib, fast asleep, so I decided to bunk there for the night.  The TV was on, and there was a weather report.  At 3:30 a.m.?  On a Saturday? The radar shows this gigantic storm that is basically on track to swallow up my city.  Eh, old hat.  I gave the “whatever” shrug, and passed out.  You can’t evacuate without sleep.  Once I woke up, I saw that I’d missed two calls from my dad.  I was flat broke, getting paid on Wednesday, and had no interest in participating in a BS round trip evacuation, but the Big Chief was alarmed, so I had no choice.  I halfheartedly threw a few things in a weekender (three outfits for each of us), then had to convince my younger sister in much the same manner my father convinced me to get out of the city.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Once we arrived in Shreveport, my sister’s in laws made us feel warm and welcomed.  They cooked, and they cooked, and they COOKED.  (All told, I gained 15 pounds before I left Shreveport.)   Each news report we watched was more ominous than the last, to the point that I stopped watching them.  If this ruthless stranger, Katrina, hit New Orleans directly, the city would be destroyed.  We’ve heard this before.  A week before the storm, when it would inevitably turn just a smidge to the right or left.  Never the night before.  It was too much for us to bear, so we stopped watching the reports.  We were safe, and no amount of news coverage would stop the events of the following day.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The storm came.  It did what storms do.  Then it went.  New Orleans did not receive the devastating direct hit that stole my appetite the night before.  Coastal Mississippi was demolished.  The Twin Span, a bridge that had always given me the willies which crossing it on the way to Mississippi, looked like a checkerboard of stone and water.  There were reports of loved ones being torn from the arms of one another due the storm surge out of the Gulf of Mexico.  It was heartbreaking to watch.  One man watched his wife basically just surrender to the surge, shouting for him to take care of the children.  I prayed for them, and planned to send aid the following weekend – when I planned on returning home.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The damned phone wouldn’t stop ringing.  It’s nine o’clock, I have no idea why everyone is up. Since my kids were up, and I promised everyone I’d cook breakfast, I decided to get it in gear.  Everyone was plastered to the television in silence.  There was water.  Everywhere.  Everyone speaks of the three breaches.  In actuality, there were three main breaches.  In the first twenty-four hours there were 28 confirmed breaches — ultimately, there were 53.

The death toll for New Orleans alone was 1,577.  Law enforcement and first responders were traumatized.  Two police officers committed suicide; others just got in their cars and drove away.  Even the most basic actions were mired in chaos.  Reaching the 504 area code was virtually impossible, so we could only text.  The rest, you could see on the news.  Everyone watched people go hungry, go thirsty.  My friend sat on a bridge for three days without food or water.  People chanted, begging for provisions.  I watch my local, state and federal government fail its own citizens, as they spent time either bickering, or issuing undeserved kudos.  I watched public figures make disparaging remarks about their own constituents, and deciding who was and was not fit to return.  Basically, the people who kept the city running on their sweat and ability to swallow shit we undesirable.

Til Eternity…

In the coming months, the corrupt infrastructure that was as ingrained in New Orleans as Mardi Gras and red bean Mondays was put center stage for the entire nation to see.  The simple question, “Why didn’t they just leave?” was revealed to have answers far more complex than anyone could have anticipated.  The news was inundated with accusations, resignations and indictments.  There was no power, and no clear picture of when the city would even be inhabitable.  I made the heartbreaking choice not to return, and went back to the plan I’d made earlier in the year to relocate to the Washington, D.C. area.

Nola.com said it best:

New Orleans will forever exist as two cities: The one that existed before that date, and the one after.

And even though that sums it up best, it still doesn’t begin to approach the actuality of New Orleans, because it’s more than a city.  It’s more than two.  New Orleans begins in the bones.  It’s hard drinking and hard loving.  The knot you get in the pit of your stomach when you know you must leave soon; that sigh you give when you plan your return – that’s New Orleans claiming you.  It’s the necessity, not the novelty, of getting your liquor “to-go.”  New Orleans is listening to Jim Henderson call that fucking field goal 375 times and getting a lump in your throat every damn time.  It’s being separated by two degrees from everything and everyone you need to know.  When you realize that Nagin was wrong about New Orleans being chocolate – it’s black, gold, green and purple.  It’s the tears in my eyes as I type this post.

Even with all that goes wrong with my city, every year, I have that long conversation with myself, where I consider moving back.  Ultimately, I come to the realization that setting up shop here has been good for all of us, and I have a phenomenal support system in my new home.  Yet, only a foolish tree would hate its roots.

I know what it means to be New Orleans.

If you had any sense, you’d wish you were as lucky.

Quickie

Since I broke my ankle this Spring, I spent the first half of my summer basically chained to the crib. I’m off crutches, but still taking it slow.  I’ve devoted the past few weeks to diverting from the beaten path and getting out more.  Not the typical clubbing, but walking the mall, going to the movies, going to sociable places and doing sociable things.  Being at one with the universe, rather than behaving like a miserly tenant.  Yesterday, not only did I hit up the happening spot that is Busboys and Poets (which I loved), but I also dared to bare a little shoulder in the daylight hours.

The owners of the New Orleans standard Port of Call have opened a restaurant in the DC area named Desperados Burger.  I hear I should be prepared to get messy, but I grew up in the  land of the dressed roast beef po’boy, so I ain’t scared o’ no beef.  Today, it’s funky and rainy, but I refuse to let that keep me inside.  I’ve just really been feeling myself this past week, so I think other people should experience the good vibes that I’m emanating.  I don’t mean that in a conceited way (maybe slightly); but I mean that in the way of, I’m feeling good, and I want to be outdoors and positive and send good vibes to other people as well.

Okay, Now You’re Just Trying to Play Me

I don’t view every first as a heralded milestone.  For example, though I was not vehemently angered by 3-6 Mafia being able to place “Oscar Winning Group” in front of their name, I did not see it as a great moment in black or hip hop history.  “Fight the Power” could have just as easily been such a first over twenty years ago.  There are some things that really just fall under the category of us being fucked with.  (I see you “Precious.”)

The latest example is Milwaukee’s Ieshuh Griffin. She is an independent candidate for the Wisconsin state assembly, and she wants all and sundry to know that she’s not the white man’s bitch.  Even after TOTALLY ignoring her Rapunzel weave with the blonde streak in the front, I was still annoyed.  I believe that she is trying to make a statement, and she is standing on the platform of free speech.  Fine.  It will get her some notoriety, I’m sure some votes, and she will no doubt gain national attention.  In this day and age of fame whorism, my annoyance with her can go only but so far.

There was a complaint filed pertaining to profanity being used on a ballot.  Watching the panelists reviewing her case made me want to throw up.  The video linked includes two white guys heartily professing that there is nothing wrong with her using the term “not the white man’s bitch” because it is only portraying that she is standing her own ground politically.  I mean, “unbought and unbossed” had already been done, right? There are a million ways a person can express independence and free speech.  But I find it absolutely ridiculous for her to claim, and for three panelists to concur, that this was neither racially motivated, nor offensive.

When we talk about upholding free speech, it is a slippery slope in either direction, but this is NOT a landmark victory in the case of equality.  Even if she wins on such a platform, as my DC folks would say, she’s a bamma, and she ran on a bamma platform, so guess who’ll vote for her?  That’s right.  She’s the premier independent bamma.  I’m sure she is priding herself on standing her ground, and she had quite obviously done her homework pertaining to her rights to choose her slogan terminology.  But this is so misguided.  From the perspective of a citizen, grandstanding of this nature shows a selfishness that, though prevalent in public office, rightfully has no place there.

Gays have had to jump through hurdles to attain basic human rights, women’s bodies are still viewed as chattel, and the safety of our children is in ever-increasing peril; but rest easy, Ieshuh’s freedom of speech is in tact.  Would we be so cool with this if a former white prostitute ran under the slogan, “Not the black man’s ho?”  I’d be the first one in line to punch her in the boob.  Because she’s a moron.  Politics has become the game of idolizing the wacky, rather than electing the candidate who gets results.  It is this EXACT mentality that has made Sarah Palin a “respected” political voice.

I will be the first to say that  Palin is a much more dangerous force.  Even if Griffin wins, she quite probably will not go farther than her home state, whereas Palin has the political machine and right wing agenda in her arsenal.  Yet, I can’t help but think that people have lost sight of what is important: a functioning government.  Griffin did not get the required votes needed to allow her to use her slogan (she needed four, she got three), so she is taking it to the federal level, and is requesting that the election be delayed until then.  Damn a functioning government, this is the Ieshuh show, the right wing show, the paranoid left tapdance show, the Palin show. They each seemed to forget that point of public office is to be a servant to the people.

Everyone is trying to be shocking so as to incite revolution.  The revolution has been reduced to sound bytes without context and hidden agendas.  There’s posturing and proselytizing.  We’ve got left wingers, right wingers, and independents and they’re armed with laptops, blogs, radio shows and Twitter accounts.  The revolution has EVERYTHING.

Except true revolutionaries.

Fruition

fru·i·tion

/fruˈɪʃən/  Show Spelled[froo-ish-uhn]  Show IPA

–noun
1. attainment of anything desired; realization; accomplishment: After years of hard work she finally brought her idea to full fruition.
2. enjoyment, as of something attained or realized.
3. state of bearing fruit.

If I were forced to provide a favorite word, “fruition” would be that word.  Even before you get to the meaning, it just sounds divine.  The entire notion of realizing one’s dream, destiny or potential is one of the most appealing prospects to me.  I am a woman who enjoys the journey, but I also appreciate that moment that says “this is why you did all of that.”  Fruition is what fuels award ceremonies, recitals, graduations and even good parenting.  We work hard to see some sort of benefit for our hard work.  The reason so many people quit school, jobs and even relationships, is because they feel unfulfilled.  Who wants to rise each day with their own personal universe devoid of progress and passion? A life without inspiration is no life at all.

I’m cool with that.  But what if you’re lacking passion?  What if you see yourself on a path that will not bear fruit?  Do you just resign yourself that this is the way it’s going to be?  Do you give up and scrap the whole plan?  I’ve built from ground zero more than a few times in my life, and I see a certain benefit in that.  However, sometimes, the plan isn’t the problem.  I think we need to be more willing to salvage the functional parts and scrap what doesn’t work.

This is coming from my realization that there have been certain facets of my east coast plan that haven’t quite worked out as I would have liked.  Part of me has thought, “Well, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You’ve made it five years in a foreign land.  Let’s pack it in and bring it back to the 504.  Maybe having your family around will make going back to school easier.  Maybe you’ll get the breathing room to finish your book.”  Yet, I think that would be a grave mistake.  Just because it’s not perfect, it doesn’t mean that great things have not happened to me here.  I’ve made great friends who are family to me now. And the easy way isn’t always the right way.  We all need support, but I can’t expect my hand to be held all the way through to greatness.  It’s time for the big girl drawz.

So I’m coming to terms with never regressing, and not starting completely over.  I just have to reconfigure my path and make sure bananas are at the other end.